The Magic of Bryce Canyon

Once again I’m astonished at the length of time it has taken me to get to a post. I can blame my ongoing struggle with inconsistent (and often nonexistent) internet connection for most of the delay, but I also enjoyed the pleasure of my daughter’s company during the Thanksgiving holiday. Always a welcome distraction! And I’ve cherished time with some dear friends as well. Enough excuses though, I’ve got another amazing place to share!

At last writing I was tearing myself away from Zion National Park (two posts well worth checking out!) and making my way to Bryce Canyon National Park. With the onset of winter season a good many of the campgrounds in the area were closed which made my online search challenging. In widening the search area I lucked upon Hitchin’ Post RV Park in Panguitch. This is a simple campground on the main street of this small town, but it more than met my needs. The owners, a delightful young couple, were very helpful with information and suggestions on places I should see while in the area. The town itself was all but shut down for the season. Seriously… after one long day of adventuring, too tired to cook, I couldn’t even find an open restaurant (short of fast food which I’d have to be starving to ingest.)

As soon as I’d settled in to my campsite I set out on the 25 mile drive for my long-awaited first glimpse of Bryce Canyon. It was a long drive just to catch the sunset, but I really was quite anxious to see this place. I feel the need to preface my reaction when I first laid eyes on this canyon. In a good many of our state and national parks the view… the magic of the place… is apparent as you enter the park (and in some cases long before). Zion for example… Yosemite… Grand Teton… Rainier… In all of these parks the beautiful landmarks they are known for stand grandly on the horizon.

Bryce is different. You drive some distance into the park, take a turn to one of several different view points, park your car and walk a path to reach the canyon. I literally grew more anxious with every step! I kid you not… the moment I walked to the edge of the canyon at Sunset Point (chosen only because it was nearing sunset) my heart leapt. (That really does happen to me.) I don’t have words to adequately describe my reaction. I think I used up all of the appropriate adjectives in my Zion posts, and I hate to be repetitive. WOW! What a magical place! The wonders of nature will never cease to amaze me I’m sure. The geological force of nature that went into creating this place is mind boggling!

Like Zion, words and even images cannot begin to describe the beauty and scale of this canyon. Bryce Amphitheater, which is the focus of all of my images, is 12 miles long, 3 miles wide and 800 feet deep. The entire canyon is filled with hoodoos and walls made of brilliant sedimentary layers of red, orange and white.

Interestingly, although there are safe (railed-in) areas to step up to at each of the viewpoints, most of the trail that follows along the canyon edge is completely exposed. Not a place for small children, and pets are not even allowed. (Mine waited patiently in the car while I ogled and captured sunset here.)

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Amphitheater from Sunset Point

As soon as I got back to my motorhome I set my alarm clock for 4:30 AM so that I’d have time to walk the girls and get back out to the edge of the canyon before sunrise. Photographically, setting up my gear any LATER than BEFORE sunrise is too late. The magic of that first breaking light disappears very quickly. Two mornings in a row I made my way to the canyon in the wee hours and stood heavily bundled and shivering in the 20 degree breeze… camera at the ready on a tripod… waiting for the magic. The first morning I started at Sunrise Point, and the second at Inspiration Point. After my initial shots I hiked much of the rim trail both mornings… my eyes never leaving the canyon.

Bruce Canyon National Park

First ray of sun shines on Chinese Wall

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon from Sunrise Point

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Wall in Bryce Amphitheater

Without a doubt my most magical moment of all is captured in the image below, from   Inspiration Point. For a few brief moments, while the light was just right, this scene sent my mind into fairy tales of mystical, magical kingdoms. The large formation on the hill became a castle. The kingdom was filled with… well, pretty much your typical fairy tale cast-of-characters.

Moments later it was a Cathedral in an ancient Roman city. A favorite book, Pillars of the Earth, played itself out in my mind. THAT was exhausting! (Only those who have read the book with get the humor in that.) {I should note that I discovered much later, while researching for this post, that the rock formation I fantasized over is actually called The Cathedral.}

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Inspiring view, including The Cathedral, from Inspiration Point

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utan

Hoodoos and walls

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utan

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After my first sunrise hike along the rim I ventured down into the canyon on the Navajo Loop Trail. As you might imagine by the images, I spent the entire hike gawking in wonder. This trail is listed as a moderate 1.3 mile hike. Absolutely worth doing! The challenge to some would be the 550 foot switch-back ascent. Of greater importance is the possibility of falling rocks. An occurrence that takes place on this trail more than any other in the park. (Interestingly I had hoped to also hike Peekaboo Loop Trail while there and it was closed due to falling rocks.)

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Hikers on the Navajo Loop Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Navajo Loop Trail

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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bottom of the canyon on Navajo Loop Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Sky light from Navajo Loop Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Douglas Fir standing tall on “Wall Street”, Navajo Loop Trail

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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Trees beneath the walls, Navajo Loop Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

“Fairyland” from Navajo Trail near Sunset Point

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Thor’s Hammer (hoodoo at right) from Navajo Tail

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Navajo Trail

Since my intended hike for the second day was closed I took a drive out Hwy-12 and bumped along Cottonwood Canyon Scenic “Backway” (off-road, 20 miles) to see Grosvenor Arch. On the way back I swung into Kodachrome Basin State Park and got permission from the ranger to do a quick drive-through. No images to share, but I made a mental note to come back and spend some time camping and hiking when I had more time.

Highway 12, Utah

$800 “Beater” along Hwy 12 🙂

Utah

Grosvenor Arch, along Cottonwood Canyon Road Scenic Backway

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Long abandon RV, Cottonwood Canyon

I decided to spend my last day in the area (Garfield County) driving the highly acclaimed “Highway 12 Scenic Byway” just to see what all the fuss was about. In brief I’ll say there’s a reason for all the fuss. It’s a spectacular drive… any time of year, with breathtaking vistas around every turn. Photographically speaking though, with many of the trees bare of leaves, I’d missed its prime by a few weeks. I stopped several times, hiked a few short trails with the girls, and watched in wonder as the landscape unfolded around me. But… after two days of hoarding Bryce Canyon with my camera, I was pacified and happy to simply enjoy most of what I saw.

Quick notes on just some of the many points of interest on this Byway;

Red Canyon… I drove to and from my destinations through this canyon for three days, stopping several times to enjoy the scenery from the roadway. Since my time was limited and my focus was Bryce I didn’t venture into the park. I do understand they have some great trails and I hope to enjoy them one day.

Bryce Canyon and Kodachrome Basin noted above.

Calf Creek Falls… We stopped here and hiked some but again, the lack of color and long drive ahead kept me from hiking the entire 6 miles to and from the falls. I understand they are quite spectacular though and made a note to come back, maybe in the spring.

Boulder… I didn’t afford myself the time to drive “Hell’s Backbone” (extensive off-road) but I did take the time to stop for lunch at Hell’s Backbone Grill, which was highly recommended by someone I met at Zion. Loved the casual/homey ambience, drooled over the menu, devoured a light meal, and enjoyed a delightful conversation with my waitress (and wish I could remember her name). I think this is the first restaurant review on my blog (my meals are typically found in my fridge), but Hell’s Backbone Grill gets two thumbs up from me.

Boulder, UT

Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder

Anasazi State Park Museum… worth the stop if you’ve never seen Anasazi ruins, but I’ve seen some of the best so this was a quick stop for me.

Capitol Reef National Park… Another spectacular display of nature at it’s best. With a long return drive ahead of me I was in the park only long enough to wet my tastebuds. There is no doubt I will return one day to explore more of this place!

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Chimney Rock, Capitol Reef National Park

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The Castle, Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

“Power Horse” in Merin-Smith Implement Shed

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Buck and doe in Capitol Reef National Park

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Capitol Reef National Park

Rather than retrace my route on Hwy-12 I followed Hwy-24 west from Capitol Reef, then Hwy-62/22 south, meeting up with Hwy-12 again at Bryce Canyon… and from there back to “the barn” completing my 280 mile loop. This return route was nowhere near as scenic, but it was a different scene. My favorite little tidbits were the old and abandoned “relics of yesteryear”. There’s no denying my love of old nostalgic structures… homes, barns, bridges, lighthouses. They draw on my romantic nature I guess… my sense of wonder at a time gone by.

Black Canyon, Utah

Abandoned house along highway 22

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Old building on Johns Valley Road near Bryce Canyon

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Old wagon along Hwy 12 near Bryce Canyon

I have to say that in all of my wanderings throughout this country (35,000 miles through 47 states since the journey began) no state came as a bigger surprise to me than Utah. I’d been to many of the states before, and already knew the grand beauty I would find in them. And in many states there were unexpected places of beauty… Hocking Hills in Ohio comes to mind. When I speak of Utah though, I’m literally referring to the entire state.

I was born in the midwest, raised in the northwest, schooled and started my family in California, and spent much time in Colorado before moving to Texas. In my mind the best of nature’s beauty consisted of mountain ranges, lush forests and coastal shorelines. The uniqueness of the geological wonders throughout the state of Utah struck a deep chord in me. It’s no wonder there is such a high concentration of National Parks there! And now… I have had the pleasure of enjoying each of them… enough to know that more time is needed in all of them!

Arches and Canyonlands are included in these posts;

Two Days of Rock and Roll (day 1)

Two Days of Rock and Roll (day 2)

I got enough time in Zion to require two posts;

Be Still My Heart… Love Zion! (part 1)

Be Still My Heart… Love Zion! (part 2)

And another beautiful corner of the state here;

The Utah I Never Knew

Worth noting; While writing this post, and pondering the amazing list of our National Parks, I did a count. I’ve visited at least 27 of our national parks in my lifetime, and more amazingly… 24 of them on this journey alone!

Stay tuned! There’s more of Utah in my next post, plus… one of my most highly anticipated hikes ever… “The Wave”!

 

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Reminder… while supplies last my 2014 Journey In Focus calendar is available at a discounted price. Each calendar = a few gallons of gas in the tank! 🙂

Check them out here… Art, Books and More

 

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Wishing all of you who follow along on my journey the very Happiest of Holidays, and a Blessed and Joyous New Year!

 

 

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4 thoughts on “The Magic of Bryce Canyon

  1. Wow, so many wonderful shots. I love that place. Sounds like you had a great time…and, covered quite a bit of ground. I like the holes in the “Wall in Bryce Amphitheater” shot. That old building at John’s Valley is pretty unique. Great post!

    • Thanks Mike. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself, “No place could possibly be more beautiful than this!” on my journey, only to be proven wrong. Actually… it’s kinda fun proving myself wrong come to think of it. After pages and pages of internet searching I never could identify that building on John’s Valley Road.

  2. Guess where we are right this very moment? Bryce! You are right this place is amazing! Your photos are fantastic!! Mine turned out well, but after seeing yours we decided to go back to Insiration Point which we skipped yesterday. Bryce is a nice compliment to Zion which was AWESOME! Zion is right up there with Yosemite. Yosemite is our favorite place in the whole world! Truly God’s Country! When is your next visit to the SF Bay Area? We have plenty of parking, good food, and are dog friendly! (-;

    • Wow! How wonderful that you two are there now! I bet it’s even more magical in the snow! I’m unsure my route out of southern California (where I’m camped right now) but will certainly let you know if I am heading through the SF bay area again… or to Yosemite. I’d been there a few times before, but had only one day in the park about two years ago and know I must get back! Have fun!!

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